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“March to Fulfill the Dream” Will Unite North and South to Claim the Rights to Health and Housing

In mid-January, representatives from several grass-roots groups met in New Orleans to plan the next steps in the March to Fulfill the Dream. Set to begin on April 4th, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, the march and caravans will travel from the Mississippi Delta to Detroit, mobilizing people all along the route to unite in the fight to claim their rights to the basic necessities of life. The march will end in Detroit on June 20th, the opening day of the 2010 US Social Forum, where tens of thousands will converge under the banner, “Another World Is Possible; Another US is Necessary!”

The route links the Gulf Coast, where “Katrina Recovery” has meant primarily the appropriation of funds and land to benefit investors and the abandonment of poor and other working people; Mississippi communities where memories of the collective actions inspired by MLK’s call for the Poor People’s Campaign continue to inspire; Appalachia, where undocumented workers, recruited aggressively for factory work only a few years ago, are now scattered through the hills, hiding from ICE, desperate to keep their families together; Tennessee “boom towns,” where huge increases in unemployment, homelessness, and denial of health care among the new poor starkly contrast with the still-lavish lifestyles of the new rich; Kentucky, epicenter of the fight to resist the removal of children from their families when the families’ economic human rights have been denied; and finally Ohio, symbol and reality of the transformation from the USA’s Manufacturing Belt to its Rust Belt, where hundreds of thousands of workers who once embodied the dreams of the middle class have lost their homes and their jobs forever and now struggle in the face of privatization to maintain even their access to water. Standing together in the toxic fallout of global capital’s pursuit of cheap labor, buffeted by the US government’s complicity in casting them off, thousands of people from these different regions of the USA--people who have seldom if ever been united in common cause--are preparing to march together to claim the economic human rights for all that the Electronic Age makes possible—and necessary.

Marchers will spotlight two of the most pressing issues being felt by the USA’s growing class of dispossessed: health care and housing. Skyrocketing health care costs have driven millions into financial ruin while private insurance companies reward top managers with million-dollar salaries and line workers with bonuses for “improved efficiency,” which usually means finding ways to boost profits by denying health care recommended by their doctors. Meanwhile, the only “reform” plans still being considered by Congress, including the one backed by President Obama, leaves the profit-making insurance industry intact and millions still uninsured. Marchers will continue to press for the only solution that makes sense: universal, single-payer health care.

Marchers will call for “Zero foreclosures/Zero Evictions!”

On the housing front, millions have already lost their homes to foreclosure; of those still in their homes, over 25% owe more on their mortgages that their homes are worth. Thus millions of families are thrown into the rental market—yet another profit-driven enterprise—where a continued drop in income or rising rents could well mean eviction and homelessness. Many families, unable to find affordable rentals, are already swelling the ranks of the homeless. The average age of a homeless person in the USA today is 8 years old, and families constitute the fastest growing sector of homeless. Marchers will call for “Zero foreclosures/Zero Evictions!”

Organizers and endorsers of the March to Fulfill the Dream are aware that the world has changed since MLK called for the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign. Those changes have meant devastation for millions in the USA and, inevitably, on billions around the world on whom the USA is making war to boost its economy and, perversely, provide jobs to young men and women as soldiers. But the changes also inspire hope. The millions of workers who are no longer needed in the age of electronically-based production—the new class of dispossessed—are increasingly aware of the nature of their plight and their collective power to demand that the basic necessities of life, so readily produced today, be made available to all. They may not all agree on what to call a new system, but they would agree with MLK’s 1965 statement to the Negro American Labor Council that, whatever you call it, “there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”

The March to Fulfill the Dream began as a project of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) and is now a key part of the program of the USSF Poverty Working Group, co-chaired by Marian Kramer of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. Its growing list of organizational endorsers includes Healthcare Now! (http://www.healthcare-now.org )


Next month: The International Community Joins the March to Fulfill the Dream”